Susan's most recent work has revolved around this racoon skull she found in her woodland garden. This piece is a graphite drawing worked to carefully reveal the textures in the surface of the bone and the deeply etched fine lines where the bone plates connect to one another. Once again Susan's delicate touch has done this play of light and dark a fine justice.
Stay tuned for more images of this little skull. Susan is currently working on a watercolour of it from a different angle altogether.
Meriel's mix of ink and watercolour, a play of blues and violets. She's set herself the parameters of completing a painting every week during our 3-hour classes, start to finish. The results are fresh and alive, loose and playful.
It's nice to see her background in Chinese brush painting coming through and into her present practice.
Pam worked on this orchid for a long time after the blooms were spent, relying on photos for colour and shadow references. It was a real challenge to get the depth of colour needed without sacrificing translucency and light.
It can be very difficult to paint dark or highly saturated subjects without creating a thick crust of paint, something to avoid with watercolour. Pam struggled with trying to layer washes that seemed to refuse to darken. She eventually managed to increase the concentration of her washes and work in some dry brush to create a velvety rich surface.
I really love the drape of the composition that comes from outside the frame and the way the little buds are painted, hanging quietly over the the emptiness at the bottom of the page.
Susan worked on this beautiful and unusual bloom this past winter. She's really captured the texture of the flower with great delicacy and care, managing to keep the lacework of veins light and natural.
For those of you who don't paint, the only way to do this well with watercolour is to paint around the veins, leaving the light areas. You can't paint light over dark with this medium so planning and care are needed to successfully render a subject with light coloured veins. It's a great challenge and one the Susan has met remarkably well.
I've moved in closer to show the delicate bits of colour within the colours. After the initial loose underpainted washes were applied to set the colour of the veins and general areas, deeper colour was built up using dry brush by layering tiny bits of paint to achieve intensity and dimension.
Everything has a thickness, no matter how thin, and depending on how the light falls that thickness will appear either light or dark. You can see the light hitting the edge of the curling petal above showing the thickness as light and on other petals as dark. Attention to details like this is what makes a painting really sing.
Fabienne discovered this little curl of grapevine in a bag of grapes and found it so inspiring she included it in her most recent painting. It's an airy composition of elements floating in space emphasizing the lightness of the dried leaves and twig.
A desire to explore the grapevine and brightly coloured leaves a little further has set Fabienne to work on a second composition with two of the leaves and which will include the very challenging element of painting their cast shadows ...coming soon :)
This elegant composition is Lucie's second watercolour painting.
She chose to depict this maple key much larger than life to show off the delicate beauty of its transparent veining. So often these small things that we see everyday are not truly visible to us until someone decides to show it to us in this way. It reminds me of these words...
Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small.
We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.
Lucy's done a great job of showing us the richness of the colours and of keeping the light in this painting, both in the lacy top and in the swell of the seed pod.
Michael painted this charming little violet from a black and white photograph. Despite having no colour references he's managed to create a very convincing illustration. It has a lovely, old-fashioned feel to it... maybe it's the violet, an old-fashioned favorite? This painting is a perfect example of how important "negative spaces" are to a composition... those shapes in a drawing or painting that are created by what isn't there. That little white flame shape at the centre of the leaf is such an intrinsic part of what makes this painting so satisfying. Use your finger to block it out and you'll see what I mean.
Fabienne's luminous apple, a MacIntosh, was painted in the fall but I've fallen way behind in posting... so here it is at last! She was happy with everything about this painting, especially the way it glows from within, but not the dark shadow on the right, only worth mentioning because it's a common frustration in the early stages. It's hard not to default to blues when mixing shadow colours. This can make for a darkness that looks like it's sitting on top of the colour of the object itself, in this case the red. What we want is for the red to still look red but darker...red with less light coming from within. It means deepening the mix without losing that red. But words are words and paint is paint. I like how Laurie Anderson put it: "Talking about painting is like dancing about architecture."
I, too, like the luminosity of this painting and the subtle details she managed to show very successfully...the texture and markings on the skin and that little stem shadow that works perfectly without being too blue or too dark.
We'll come back to the subject of shadows again with Fabienne...she's on a mission now.
Pam painted this artichoke twice. The image above is the second one with the first one below. She wasn't satisfied with the colours and contrast of the first one and decided to try it again with this in mind.
She worked so hard to depict the leaf texture in the first painting that everything else was forgotten until she stepped back and saw what was missing.
The second painting considered the whole in balance with the details, including volume, depth of colour and shadows while retaining the ridges in the leaves she worked so hard for previously.
The result is a strong, confident and complete painting.
It often takes more than one go to really see a subject and paint it well, but the results speak for themselves.
Two more of Meriel's little postcard-sized mixed media paintings, each done in one three-hour session. She then sends them off to friends!
The lightness and playfulness that Meriel brings to her work now is inspiring...not getting caught up in limitations and just enjoying herself for a little while and delighting their recipients with a little original painting sent through the post. A radical act in our mediated, digital image-saturated world.
Fabienne's new painting of curling dried maple leaves showing both front and back in a delightful circular composition. She told me that she painted the back of the leaf quite quickly and was much happier with the result, after having spent so many weeks on the front, struggling to get the curls and shadows right.
Sometimes things go better when you get out of your head and just trust yourself, your eyes and your brush. Easier said than done!
Pam's most recent painting, a dried magnolia pod, like a boat with its sleeping passengers. She's done a great job capturing the vivid colors and details that have remained after so much time. The pod itself is only a few inches long.
A few weeks ago I challenged Meriel to paint larger and to paint directly, without drawing her subject in first.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, Meriel lost most of the sight in one of her eyes a few years ago. She loved the experience of painting so much that after an initial stage of discouragement, she adapted to a looser approach and hasn't looked back since.
For this painting I lent her my large watercolour block (12"x16") and off she went. She painted the flower head first, and came back a week later to add the leaves and stem. The resulting painting, a class favorite, is as light and airy as the flower supported by some dark, anchoring leaves.
She has since purchased a larger block of her own and is painting in her local community garden space. I'll be posting some of those in the near future.
Seduced by its vibrant colours, Nadia painted this dried leaf specimen over several months this winter. It was a long journey and she thought she might never get there but it was worth the effort. Below are the pictures I took of it as it developed along with the final painting so you can see how it came into colour before it reached completion.
PAM COHEN Buddha's Hand |Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis
Yes, it is a lemon! And a beautifully exotic flowering shrub. But when it fruits it looks a bit like an octopus tree. Painting it was a challenge and Pam's study got cut short as it decayed and she couldn't find a replacement. Still, she started getting a good amount of it's bumpy skin painted before the end came. And the colour... "Though it looks like a lemon gone wild, the
Buddha's hand is actually a distinct fruit in the citron family. It has a
sweet, lemon blossom aroma and no juice or pulp. The mild-tasting pith
is not bitter, so the fruit can be zested or used whole."
Kathryn sent me these photos of her most recent paintings, submitted to
the International Art of the Plant Exhibition along with her previous
painting of Cottonwood Leaves and the Douglas Fir. We're all still waiting to find out if they've been accepted.
Kathryn has also been selling some prints of her paintings. She's in between lives right now so until she gets herself settled in her new home and sets up a web presence you can find out more about acquiring her artworks by contacting her directly at email@example.com
Poplar Skeleton Leaf
Big Leaf Maple - Acer macrophyllum
Sadly for us Kathryn is packing up and moving back to Ontario this year. She will be based just outside Ottawa where she's already found a botanical painting group to hang out with. We miss you already...
This watery jewel is one of Meriel's summer paintings. She has a thing for shells... It's already been 5 years that Meriel has been painting with us and in that time I've had the privilege of watching her develop her skills through some difficult changes. She had a bicycle accident a few years ago that broke her leg and took the sight from one of her eyes. Despite the frustrations that came with that she kept on painting, approaching her limitations with the mind of an explorer. When she was able to adjust to her new vision she embraced what became an opening for a new, more diffuse way of painting, surprising us all with the results. All that she learned early on is still present in her new paintings along with a blossoming freedom of expression. She still manages to capture an incredible amount of detail, now more impressionistic and flowing, and a wonderful luminosity. She's been focusing on developing her understanding of colour by limiting her palette and exploring new ways of seeing. I'm always amazed at Meriel's ability to take whatever life hands her, use it to learn something new and then bring it forward to share it with all of us.
This is Nadia's first botanical study and she really succeeded in conveying the plump fullness of this little plant... a great start.
Nadia took my drawing class at Emily Carr years ago and wanted to take the painting class but got too busy with work. Already a graphic artist and illustrator, Nadia paints and draws and takes beautiful photographs.
A little window into Meriel's studio. She's been making her paintings on small cards that she then sends off to friends... it keeps her away from getting too hung up on perfection and remaining present in the process of painting itself.
Time made this leaf this way, months outside in the winter rain and snow and sun. Pam made this painting over the summer months, slowly and carefully recording every fine line and detail. Time and patience and persistence, care and careful observation, time and the slowing down of the speed of life...
A delicate conversation in red and green, Fabienne's most recent study. There's a peacefulness to this little painting that I find captivating, the luminosity and volume of the rounded forms floating in space...
Elizabeth had a whole plant with many flowers, each of which started bright and vibrant but faded to a butter yellow before falling away too quickly. It was a bit frustrating having to switch from bloom to bloom in one painting but she got there in the end.
A small painting with a monumental presence... this gorgeous green pepper is Fabienne's first finished piece. Fabienne started painting botanicals in June during the 4-day intensive at ECUAD. There is so much light, volume and translucency in this little gem, a very promising start!
This beautiful study in violets and reds took weeks to paint and it changed a lot over time. Pam kept it in the fridge between sittings and it held up remarkably well for the length of time, despite losing a few bits in the process.
Here is the original drawing, wonderfully rendered in great detail. Both works retain a great sense of roundness and dimension.
Kathryn loves to paint branches... the woody parts with all their bumps and shapes... she calls it "dessert"... the reward after wrestling with the hard-to-control washes below the veining in the leaves. It's hard to see the variety of colours in the photograph, but this branch has blue and green and yellow and violet in it.